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NEWS BRIEFS

Major transport price hike on the way

Travelling between cities in Slovakia just got more expensive.

As of February 15, bus fares will go up 20% and rail fares will increase 35% in an attempt to stem the fiscal bleeding of state-run Slovak Rail company (ŽSR).

The increase is necessary because fewer people are using public transportation, and the current fares they pay do not even cover basic costs. Higher fares will mean the bureau will be able to continue expanding its services and modernising its equipment, said ŽSR spokesman Maroš Čikovský.

In 1998, revenue from personal transport came to 1.56 billion Sk, while costs were 8.6 billion Sk higher. The state paid only 2.2 billion Sk of the costs, meaning that including losses from past years, Slovak Rail is 6.8 billion Sk in the red, Čikovský said.

ŽSR predicts the ticket hike will boost revenue by 380 million Sk in 1999. However, this will still not be enough to cover passenger transport costs. The ŽSR projects a break-even year in 1999 only if the state covers the 5.8 billion Sk gap between costs and revenues from passenger transport.

The state is obliged to pay this sum from its budget through the Contract on Passenger Transportation. If the state does not pay it, the ŽSR will have to take a loan, which would further increase its indebtedness, Čikovský said.

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